I hate to admit it, but I am chock full of excuses. I’m not the only one who makes excuses to justify extravagant behavior, especially when it comes to food. We do it all the time! Hollandaise on asparagus? Its ok, I’m eating vegetables. Sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows as a side dish? I heard that the beta-carotene cancels out the sugar. French fries and ketchup, that counts as a serving of vegetables and fruit! I’ll have the bacon-wrapped steak topped with a blue cheese sauce-I’m trying to lose weight on the Atkins diet.

I think it’s the American way, all these explanations. We are tormented by guilt about our eating, going back and forth between deprivation and reward. As the old saying goes, we want to have our cake and eat it too.

Speaking of cake, today I came up with the perfect excuse to make one. I had been craving these black bean brownies I first made in my vegetarian class at culinary school. Vegetarians were probably the first ones to justify eating copious amounts of cheese without guilt, but enough finger-pointing, let’s get back to the brownies. I wanted the cake to be have some of the virtuous qualities of the bean brownies, but to also resemble those sinful flourless chocolate cakes that became so popular in the 90’s. Nothing more than sugar, eggs, butter and chocolate, they are dense and intense treats indeed. You’ll gain two pounds if you so much as glance at a sliver of flourless chocolate cake.  This version skips the butter, resulting in a cake that’s less rich and greasy, and more earthy and chocolaty, thanks to the addition of creamy pureed black beans.

As if you needed any more reasons than CHOCOLATE and CAKE to try this recipe, I took the liberty of thinking up a few excuses up for you (you can thank me later): this cake is vegetarian, gluten-free, and nut- free. It has beans in it! Filled with protein, complex carbohydrates, soluble fiber, as well as folate, potassium, iron and magnesium, those nutrient-dense little legumes all but disappear behind the pronounced chocolate flavor. It is an impressive, company-caliber dessert, takes no time at all, and is incredibly simple (I would say it’s almost impossible to mess up because there’s no creaming, whipping, tempering or folding involved). Did I forget to mention its CHOCOLATE CAKE?

Ok, so now that you are armed with an arsenal of excuses to blurt out should anyone question you as to how you are able to enjoy a slice of heaven on a Monday, make this cake!

Chocolate Black Bean Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake, serves 10-12 people

You need to use a food processor or blender to make the batter; simply mashing the beans with a fork will not get them smooth enough. The cake can be made several days in advance, just wrap in plastic wrap, then bring to room temperature before serving

Nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ cans black beans, preferably low-sodium
4 eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
12 ounces good quality, bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli works great)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

To garnish

1/4 cup toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9” cake pan with nonstick spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, and spray the paper as well.

Rinse the beans thoroughly in a colander.  In a food processor or blender, puree the beans along with one of the eggs until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides down and add the remaining eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and baking powder.

Melt 1 ½ cups of the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds. Stir the chips in between intervals and stop when the chocolate is completely smooth. Add the melted chocolate to the batter and puree until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when the cake it done. Let it cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

Melt the remaining chocolate chips and the vegetable oil in the microwave for one minute and stir until smooth and glossy. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Sprinkled the cake with the toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or coconut if desired.